Matt AndersenMatt Andersen
Album: Weightless
Label: True North
Tracks: 12

Though Matt's long been known in and around his native New Brunswick as a powerhouse bluesman and ace guitar player, it was his more understated 2011 album Coal Mining Blues that really hooked me in to his talent. Now he comes out onto the world stage again with his first album for True North, which displays the strength of his singing and songwriting on a set of self-penned (and co-penned) material that showcases the voice above the guitar playing - although room's still found for some juicy mini-solos here and there, you'll be pleased to hear. And virtually every track has a pleasing, catchy hook too.

Coming out all swaggering and soulful with the beefy, horn-drenched I Lost My Way, then paying tribute to the Van Morrison school of soul with My Last Day, then easing the tempo and quietening down the backing crew for the beautiful country-tinged heartbreaker So Easy. Later, there's the easy-swinging Springsteen vibe of the oil-worker's tale Alberta Gold (one of two songs co-written with Dave Gunning - the other being the tough, growling twang of The Fight), the bouncy Let You Down and the bluesy-rockabilly-tinged 12-bar City Of Dreams (co-written with Blackie & The Rodeo Kings' Tom Wilson). Matt also delivers three classy songs co-written with Ryan Hupman: the smouldering Between The Lines, the thundering funky-spiritual album closer What Will You Leave?, and lastly the album's title track, which returns us to the gritty Muscle Shoals sound and sports an equally gritty harmonica solo (courtesy of guest Mike Stevens). Only on the slowies Let's Go To Bed and Drift Away does the ostensibly reassuring emotional content feel just a touch cheesy.

For production duties, Matt has engaged Los Lobos' Steve Berlin, and whatever the musical idiom the sound is suitably punchy and upfront without being intrusive. Supporting musicians are first class too, and feature Paul Rigby (guitars, pedal steel), Ross Billard (keyboards), Geoff Arsenault (drums) and Bruce Dixon (bass), with backing vocalists including Amy Helm and Alanna Stuart.

All told, this is a rather fine set, and Matt's on extremely persuasive form. I'd say. Indeed, Weightless is in retrospect a curious title for such a weighty, chunky album, for it has plenty of substance whichever way you look at it; it's a record to make the world sit up and take notice of Matt's talent for sure.

David Kidman

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